The most valuable thing we have this side of heaven: His presence
When David’s sin with Bathsheba was revealed, he repented and wrote Psalm 51 from an anguished heart. As with many Psalms, it is constructed like a teeter totter, with both ends balanced around the center piece.
That center piece is the cry of David’s heart in verse 11: “Cast me not away from your presence; and take not your Holy Spirit from me.” This is the sum total of all he says in this Psalm, his core cry to God, the center piece around which all else revolves: I want your presence and Spirit more than anything!
More than his musical gifts, more than the kingdom he ruled, more than his family, David valued the presence of the Lord in his life, and that is why this Psalm of repentance revolves around his heart’s cry.
This is an Old Testament prayer – In our day we are born of the Spirit and the Holy Spirit doesn’t leave us when we sin – yet David’s heart cry is still valid for all who love His presence more than life itself! Don’t take your Spirit from me! Don’t cast me from your presence! I value Your presence in me more than anything else!
Make 2 Columns
If you list the qualities of what a Christian looked like in the first century in one column, and in another column list qualities of how we define a Christian, you will see many differences.
Among the qualities you’ll find in the early church is that individuals cherished the presence of the Lord as seen in: His presence in other believers they were in relationship and community with, His presence manifest in their giving to one another as God’s hands on earth to meet material needs, His presence seen in miracles performed by people they were in relationship with, His presence as others taught the Word, and as seen in the sharing about Christ the other living temples expressed during their home based meetings.
The early church realized the amazing truth that Christ lives in each believer rather than a building, making each believer a living temple of God. They loved His presence in each other, so they met in homes for God Himself established the home and family, and while maintaining their own homes they lived in a sense of community and family with people of faith. Their meetings were informal, in home, marked by the presence of God in worship, teaching and sharing, prayer, and the meetings of practical needs through fellow disciples.
The presence of God in their lives was first and foremost. They were dependent on His presence as manifest through other believers with whom they were in relationship.
Evidence You are a Christian
If you were arrested today for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you? Would they use church attendance as evidence? Since people of all beliefs go to buildings called temples and churches, church attendance isn’t sufficient evidence you are a Christian any more than going to a health club makes you a professional athlete.
Would they dig into your financial records to look at your giving? Statistics show non-believers give as much as believers to charities and churches, so that wouldn’t qualify as evidence. Would they take your word that you believe in Jesus? Maybe, but is that Jesus the prophet like Muslims believe? Or is it Jesus the historical figure? A decent 1st year law school student could tear that apart in a second.
The pattern down through 2,000 years of history is that authorities use the testimonies of other people to prove people are Christians. Not their attendance, not their giving, not just their admission of faith, but they use the testimonies of people once in fellowship with the accused to seal the conviction.
The Virtual Christian
Traditional church teaches righteousness, and that is good. However, though righteousness comes through faith in Christ, it is proven only within relationships. That is why authorities through the ages have used the testimonies of those who know the person to convict, because a true disciple of Jesus will be in relationship and fellowship with other believers, even if some end up betraying them.
If you remove relationships with other disciples from a person’s life, you end up with a person who says they are a Christian, but there is no evidence. You have, the “Virtual Christian.” I’ve sampled some definitions on the word ‘virtual’ below:
From thefreedictionary.com and answers.com
- Existing or resulting in essence or effect though not in actual fact, form, or name.
- Existing in the mind, especially as a product of the imagination.
- Computer science created, simulated, or carried on by means of a computer or computer network.
- Being something in practice; being something in effect even if not in reality or not conforming to the generally accepted definition of the term.
- Generated by computer; simulated by a computer for reasons of economic, convenience, or performance.
- Hypothetical; describes a particle whose existence is suggested to explain observed phenomena, but is not proven or directly observable.
As I said; chapter and verse in one column, our Churchianity culture in another
When I was first born again, we knew who the genuine disciples of Jesus were because together we sought the presence of God – among our home based meetings, in our relationships with one another as we worked through difficulties, in our own lives – all ideas, thoughts, and habits bowed their knee to the Presence of the Lord, for we wouldn’t let anything come between Him in us, and us.
But today a person is labeled ‘born again’ after a mere raising and lowering of the hand during meetings when every eye is closed, or someone is called a Christian even though they may be leading promiscuous lives, dishonest in business, living a life indistinguishable from a non-believer, or simply floating out there as a spiritual island.
Psalm 51 holds some keys for the Virtual Christian, and that is for next week…blessings,